Photographer: Fabrice Dimier/Bloomberg

Biggest Companies `Obstructing' Climate Policy, Report Finds

  • InfluenceMap report evaluated public statements, trade groups
  • Google, Cisco listed among most positive corporate influences

Almost half of the world’s 100 largest companies, including Procter & Gamble Co. and Duke Energy Corp., are “obstructing climate change legislation,” according a study released Wednesday.

The study, released by the London-based non-profit group InfluenceMap, evaluated companies’ public statements and membership in trade groups, and said that corporations have a significant impact on policy that’s often hard to track.

“More and more, we’re seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies,”
Gretchen Goldman, an adviser to InfluenceMap, and the lead analyst for the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said in a statement. “Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change.”

InfluenceMap released the study a week before world leaders including Pope Francis are scheduled to meet in New York for the United Nations general assembly, where climate change is expected to be one of the main topics. Less than three months later, more than 190 nations are sending envoys to Paris for UN-organized climate negotiations. After years of talks, this meeting is expected to end with a binding pact to limit carbon emissions.

Positive Influencers

Google Inc., Unilever NV and Cisco Systems Inc. were listed as having the most positive influence among the 100 companies measured. Duke, the largest U.S. utility owner by market value, was given an F grade. Procter & Gamble received an E-.

Procter & Gamble, which hasn’t seen the study, has “made meaningful progress in reducing our own emissions and have signed on to broader calls to action,” Julie Desylva, a spokeswoman in Cincinnati, said in an e-mail. “With many associations there will be diverse points of view, and we will not agree with positions taken by each association on every issue.”

InfluenceMap evaluated statements and messages that companies –- and trade associations with which they’re affiliated –- have disseminated on their websites and through social media, such as Twitter. The non-profit is backed by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Duke criticized this methodology.

Environmental Policies

“We question the credibility of a report that appears to compile an Internet search to mischaracterize the company’s position and our real work to lower our carbon footprint,” said Paige Sheehan, a spokeswoman in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We take an active role to support environmental policies that will result in reasonable decreases in greenhouse gas emissions that balance the impact to customer rates and reliability.” She saidthat Duke had replaced 40 coal-fired plants with ones that burn natural gas.

Some of the graded companies have revealed little about their roles and positions on climate change policy. “We’d expect that their political advocacy on climate change would match their actions,” said Thomas O’Neill, research director at InfluenceMap. “We expect sustainability leaders to take political advocacy positions in the lead-up to Paris.”